History and 5 Generations of Computer

History and 5 Generations of Computer

The history of computers is one aspect of computers that a lot of people know nothing about as it is believed that such knowledge is only for those studying computer and other computer-related disciplines.

It is important to know how the ancient computers worked and this includes the mechanisms behind their operation, the cost of operation, and the time of operation as these are the most important factors that we can use to classify computers.

There are different generations of computers and in this article, we would carefully outline how each generation paved way for another, the technology they used, and the inventors that contributed massively to each generation.


It is important to note that the term computer was first used in the year 1613 and it initially used for humans who carried out calculations, or computations and the use of this term continued until the mid-20th century where it began to take a more familiar meaning, a machine that carries out computations.

The first computing device was developed about 5000 years ago and it consisted of racks with sliding beads attached to it and it was mainly used by merchants to keep trading transactions but as of today, it is no longer popular except in places where it is used for demonstrations.

In the year 1617, Napier bones was invented by John Napier of Merchiston, Scotland and it was also known as Napier rods. Napier bones were used to perform the calculation of products of numbers and quotients of numbers and its principle of operation was based on lattice multiplication which was also known as Rabdology.

The principles of operation of Napier’s bones are still used today by Mathematicians and Engineers.

Blaise Pascal in 1642 made an invention and it was recorded to be an attempt towards the creation of the first automatic computer. The name of the device is Pascaline and it could perform only two (2) basic arithmetic operations namely addition and subtraction.

Gottfried Wilhelm Von Leibniz a roman National in the year 1671 developed the stepped reckoner and the name originated from the translation of the German term for its operating system Staffelwalze, meaning “stepped drum”. Two prototypes of the device were built but only one of the prototype is currently available in the National Library of Lower Saxony.

In 1801, a French weaver known as Joseph Jacquard introduced a series of punched paper cards as a template that allowed his loom to weave certain patterns inscribed on the loom and this was known as the earliest form of programming.

Herman Hollerith was an American mathematician and statistician that developed an electromechanical tabulating machine for punched cards to assist in summarizing information and it was used to perform census in the United States of America also in 1896, Hollerith created a company called Keypunch Machines Company and it would later go on to become the company that we now know as International Business Machines (IBM).

Vannevar Bush in 1930 developed a calculator that could solve differential equations and it was known as the differential analyzer. The analyzer solved differential equations by using integration and this was accomplished by using wheel-and-disc mechanisms to perform the integration.

In 1835, Charles Babbage invented the Analytical machine with assistance from Lady Ada Lovelace and the analytical machine had two (2) important parts namely the store which consists of a mechanical memory unit consisting of sets of counter wheels and an arithmetic unit which was also called the mill. The analytical machine could perform the four (4) basic arithmetic operations (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division).


In this section, we would provide a brief history of the evolution of digital computers that took place during the first half of the first 20th century. There are five (5) generations of computers and each generation of computer was available for a particular number of years and the five (5) generations are outlined below:

First Generation Computer: The first generation of computers were available from the year 1946 to 1959 and they made use of Vacuum tubes which are also known as Thermionic Valves. A vacuum tube is an electronic device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes to which a potential difference has been applied.

Some examples of first-generation computers include Harvard Mark 1(Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator), Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator (ENIAC), Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer (EDVAC), Universal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC), and Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Computer (EDSAC).

Second Generation Computers: Second generation computers were used from 1960 to 1964 and they made use of transistor technology. Transistors are semiconductors used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power and they are also the basic building blocks of modern-day electronics. Some examples of Second-generation computers include IBM 1920, IBM 1401, CDC 3600, UNIVAC III, Borough 200 Series, and IBM 7030.

Third Generation Computers: Third Generation Computers were used from 1964 to 1970 and in this generation of computers, the integrated circuits replaced the transistor technology and the IC is made up of three (3) electronic components, and integrated circuits can be categorized into three(3) namely: analog, digital, and mixed-signal.

Fourth Generation Computer: The fourth generation of computers were available from 1970 to 1980 and this generation of the computer brought about the introduction of personal computers and workstations hence reducing the sizes of computers and aiding portability. The fourth-generation computers made use of a technology called Very Large Scale Integration, unlike the third-generation computers that used Large Scale Integration technology.

Fifth Generation Computer: Fifth generation computers are the future computers and they possess the ability to reason like human beings and one can see that feature in a robot. An example of a fifth-generation computer is Knowledge Information Processing System (KIPS).

It can be seen that the world of computing is very dynamic and prone to change hence the need to have a knowledge of such things. In future, they might be more generation of computers that are not listed here so ensure that you subscribe to our mailing list and share this article if it helped you.

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